O.J. Simpson’s trial wreaked havoc on the Kardashian family

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Kris Jenner and Robert Kardashian divorced five years before O.J. Simpson went on trial for the 1994 murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. But it was the trial, not the divorce, that forced the Kardashian kids — Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob Jr. — to choose between their parents.

In the 15 months between O.J.’s arraignment and his acquittal, Robert and his ex-wife, Kris, staked out opposing positions on the trial. And as they split over O.J.’s innocence or guilt, their children split in their alliance to their parents. On the day Nicole and Ron were killed, the Kardashian kids were 15, 13, 9 and 7, respectively.

“That was really tough for our family,” Kim told GQ in 2023. “Kourtney and I were drawn to our dad. We felt like Mom was happily remarried, so we would live with Dad. We didn’t want him to be by himself.”

Robert, of course, became a member of O.J.’s “dream team” of defense attorneys. He hadn’t practiced law for 20 years and had to reactivate his license to participate.

Meanwhile, Khloe and Rob Kardashian Jr. hung with their mom. She had remarried and taken on the last name Jenner in April 1991, a month after her divorce from Robert Sr. was finalized.

The Kardashians’ 1991 divorce ended an era in which Kris and Robert and Nicole and O.J. — who died Thursday at age 76 — spent a lot of time together as friends. Still, Kris hung with Nicole and Robert with O.J.

The men met on a tennis court in 1969 and stayed pals for more than two decades. They shared business interests and both loved the jet-set lifestyle and USC, where the former earned his bachelor’s and the latter earned his Heisman Trophy. Robert was around in 1977 when the running back met Nicole Brown, while O.J. was an usher at Robert’s 1978 wedding to Kris Houghton.

O.J. married Nicole in 1985. They divorced in 1992, and an attempt at reconciliation the next year failed. Then, on June 12, 1994, waiter Ron Goldman walked the 10 minutes from Mezzaluna, where Nicole had eaten dinner with family, to her Brentwood condo. He was returning glasses she had left behind after the meal.

The two were brutally slain outside her front door, and the rest — including the effects it had on the Kardashian clan — became history.

O.J. Simpson and bride Nicole Brown Simpson toast with Champagne glasses while wearing formal wedding attire

An image from ESPN’s “O.J.: Made in America” shows O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson on their 1985 wedding day.

(ESPN Films)

As the investigation began, Robert wound up carrying the notorious bulging Louis Vuitton bag that O.J. had brought home on June 13, 1994, after a quick overnight trip to Chicago. Prosecutors suspected it might have contained bloody clothes or perhaps even a murder weapon and later wanted to quiz Robert on its contents, but he told them he’d never looked inside and had been rebuffed when he tried to give it to authorities in the first place.

Come June 17, 1994, O.J. led authorities on that slow-speed chase in the white Ford Bronco after spending the previous night at Robert’s house, where Kim and Kourtney had also been asleep. Robert tried to talk to his friend by cellphone during the 60-mile pursuit that captivated the country. That evening, he read O.J.’s rambling goodbye letter aloud to reporters as well as to a national TV audience and, in doing so, became a public figure.

He would go on to visit O.J. regularly when the former football pro was behind bars awaiting trial.

Robert wrote a letter to his ex and their children in November 1994, on the eve of O.J.’s trial.

“I think that the division in our family between guilty and innocence is very sad,” he said in the letter, which was reprinted in Kris’ 2012 memoir. “I do not want our family torn apart by this case. Please understand that I am trapped in the position I am in and can’t get out. I must see this case through. I truly believe in O.J.’s innocence and unless they find him guilty, I will continue to support him. I realize, Kris, that you also strongly believe in his guilt. You are entitled to your beliefs — just as I am.”

Robert at least once brought Kim and Kourtney to court with him, where he sat at the end of the defense table most days and at O.J.’s side when grisly photographs of Nicole and Rob were shown to the jury.

“My dad pulled Kourtney and me out of school,” Kim said in last year’s GQ interview. “He said, ‘I want you girls to witness a piece of history and what a trial is like.’ We walked in and saw my mom sitting on the other side. She said, ‘You’re supposed to be in school. What are you doing here?’ Kourtney and I didn’t even look at her.”

Meanwhile, Kris and her future reality-TV buddy Faye Resnick were both on the side of the prosecution. Kris, who had introduced Resnick to Nicole, drew media attention because she thought O.J. guilty while her ex-husband thought he was innocent. And Resnick was said by some to be Nicole’s closest confidante in the year before the double murder. Resnick had made her major media splash a month before the trial started when she published “Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted.”

An Oct. 20, 1994, story by The Times said the book “opened the most lurid chapter yet in the double murder trial of football legend O.J. Simpson.” It was “condemned for everything from content to tone to timing,” the story said. Nicole’s father, Lou Brown, at the time called the book “T-R-A-S-H” and labeled Resnick a hanger-on who hadn’t been very close to his daughter at all. But Resnick told The Times in June 1994 that Kris had introduced her to Nicole five years prior.

Years later, in 2013, Kris said she regretted her divorce from Robert Kardashian, who died in 2003. In 2023, she said she regretted cheating on him before he divorced her.

And after stepping foot in a courtroom for the first time in the mid-1990s, Kim is now well on her way to becoming an attorney herself.

As for the rest of the clan, it appears they’re all back together as one happy family business — except for Rob Jr., who these days likes to keep his life pretty much to himself.

The “trial of the century” practically invented reality TV, and the personal-turned-public would be an art mastered by Robert’s ex Kris and their four children, whose lives would morph into the inescapable Kardashians empire, which has birthed TV series, clothing, shapewear, beauty products, fragrances and actual babies. It has influenced the lifestyles of myriad women. Even shy Rob has a line of socks, which he now co-owns with his mom.

But it seems as if Robert predicted our reality-influencer future in 1995, when he wrote about the trial for The Times.

“I recognize that the First Amendment protects free speech and freedom of the press. But the recent trend of the press to intrude into the private lives of innocent individuals in the name of ‘getting the story’ demonstrates the dwindling interest in the equally valid constitutional right to privacy. So great is society’s demand for information that we can no longer say that all the news gathered is worthy of airing. Much of it is not,” he wrote.

“In such an environment, it’s not hard to see why old family values like trust and friendship are increasingly rare. The price is too high in a society that tears apart anyone who dares to take a public stand in the midst of controversy.”

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